Sometimes a movie can look perfect on paper, but the moment an actor steps on set and opens their mouth, the whole house of cards comes crashing down. These 10 movies are pretty great by most standards, apart from one thing: the inability of specific actors to do their job, hit their marks, say their lines and not stink up the place…
'Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone’
Ruined by: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson
The three plucky British youngsters selected to play the roles of Harry, Ron and Hermione could’ve sunk the most successful film franchise of all time before it’d even had a chance to get settled in. Chris Columbus did a great job bringing to life JK Rowling’s wizarding world of magic, but Radcliffe, Grint and Watson – all relative newcomers to acting – gave proceedings a distinct ‘school play’ vibe (albeit a school play with a budget of £82 million).
If that sounds like we’re being mean, even Radcliffe himself admitted he’s embarrassed by his work in the early Potter films. The trio began to improve by the third movie, under Alfonso Cuarón’s tutelage, progressing considerably by the time film #8 was released in 2011. As Radcliffe said: “Doing Potter was an incredible blessing… but then the moments I’m not as proud of, mistakes other actors get to make in rehearsal rooms or at drama school, are all on film for everyone to see.’
'The Godfather: Part III’
Ruined by: Sofia Coppola
Nobody is saying Francis Ford Coppola’s 'Godfather’ trilogy closer is a classic – it’s certainly not in the same league as the first two movies – but the closing chapter of the Corleone saga is genuinely epic in its scope and drama. The reason people spit at the very mention of Part III? The casting of the director’s daughter, Sofia, in the key role of Mary Corleone: Sofia’s lack of acting experience was evident (the only other major movies on her CV were directed by one Mr. F. F. Coppola) and her presence sucked the life out of the movie. Sofia Coppola later performed a minor miracle by playing a small role in 'Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace’ and not being the worst thing in it.
'Breakfast At Tiffany’s’
Ruined by: Mickey Rooney
It was a different time back then, or so say the people who lived through it; 1961 was a year in which ghastly racial stereotypes were apparently perfectly acceptable, if Mickey Rooney’s hideous Japanese caricature in 'Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ is anything to go by. As Mr. Yunioshi, Rooney – very much not from the Far East – portrays the most broad, offensive Asian stereotype imaginable, complete with buck teeth, squinty eyes and an accent that’s less “Ah-so” and more “Er… no.” The movie is otherwise a slinky '60s classic, but is forever tarnished by Rooney’s thick-cut mickey take.
'Bram Stoker’s Dracula’
Ruined by: Keanu Reeves
Kenau Reeves is like part of Hollywood’s furniture – dependable if a little wooden. When he lands the right movie, e.g. something that requires introspection mixed with ass-kicking Kung fu like 'The Matrix’, Reeves can pull it off. However, for movies that require seriousness through and through, Keanu’s presence is – and we’re paraphrasing legendary prank interviewer Dennis Pennis here – a bit like someone threw a chair in the room. Francis Ford Coppola’s take on the goth classic is close to being iconic, thanks mainly to Gary Oldman’s lecherous take on Drac, but even with the legendary vampire involved, Keanu’s Jonathan Harker still sucks hardest.
'Gangs Of New York’
Ruined by: Cameron Diaz
It is a mystery on a par with the Pyramids why Martin Scorsese, at the height of his powers, looked at his long-gestating script for 'Gangs Of New York’, glanced at a cast list that included Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson and Leonardo DiCaprio, and said: “What this movie really needs is that girl from 'There’s Something About Mary’”. Cameron Diaz has a knack for comedy but she never quite mastered drama, and her weird Irish-American accent in Gangs is even more distracting than Day-Lewis’s usual grandstanding. DiCaprio went on to work with Scorsese four more times; Cameron Diaz did not.
Ruined by: Nicolas Cage
Alex Proyas’ 'Knowing’ is an effective and enticing sci-fi with an intriguing hook – what if one guy knew the end of the world was coming but no one believed him? – that is nonetheless entirely undone by the fact that the one guy is Nicolas Cage. It’s an unhealthy mix of a straight-faced apocalypse fable starring an OTT actor just off the back of lunatic thrillers 'Ghost Rider’ and 'National Treasure: Book Of Secrets’ – the movie never stood a chance. Even with humanity facing an unprecedented extinction-level event, Cage still manages to overshoot his lines by about 1000%.
‘Alice In Wonderland’
Ruined by: Johnny Depp
You could hardly say 'Alice In Wonderland’ was 'ruined’ by Depp, given that the Lewis Carroll tome is a cast-iron literary classic and the Tim Burton adaptation still made over a billion dollars, but the Mad Hatter came at a time when the world had seen entirely too much of Johnny Depp in weird hats and pale make-up, and his very presence in the movie led to much grinding of teeth and rolling of eyes. It was a kooky character too far for the man who had then partnered with Tim Burton seven times, with diminishing returns the order of the day – Wonderland is supposed to be surprising and whimsical, not predictable and lamentable.
Ruined by: Quentin Tarantino
He’s the most visceral and exciting director of his generation, so why does Quentin Tarantino keep trying to sabotage his own movies by starring in them? First there was his torturously long, blink-and-yep-he’s-still-there cameo in 'Pulp Fiction’ as Jimmy, casually spouting the N-word in his dressing gown; then came his last act surprise appearance in 'Django Unchained’ as an Australian bounty hunter, which was about as welcome as a punch in the the head at the end of a long massage. Reminder for Quentin: behind the camera = good, in front of the camera = bad. Never the twain shall meet.
'The Fifth Element’
Ruined by: Chris Tucker
The human equivalent of nails down a blackboard, Chris Tucker doesn’t exactly have the most dulcet tones, but in the otherwise brilliant sci-fi adventure 'The Fifth Element’ he was given free reign by director Luc Besson to amp up the annoyance factor as radio personality and Lady Gaga prototype Ruby Rhod. “Bzzzzzz!” he’d buzz, snapping his fingers in irritation at anyone brave enough to enter a ten-metre radius of his voice – and thus, bees were ruined forever. His section of the film is the one most easily fast-forwarded, or muted, or just skipped altogether. Go ahead. No one will object.
'The Hunt For Red October’
Ruined by: Sean Connery
Connery has never been one to care too much about what others think, so if he says he’s going to play the role with a Scottish accent then he will – even if he’s playing a Russian submarine commander named Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius (born and bred in St Petersburg by way of Edinburgh). An accent as thick and conspicuous as Connery’s Scottish brogue just can’t be ignored, especially in the sardine-can atmosphere of a submarine, so every time Connery appeared on screen in 'Red October’, the illusion of Cold War thrills was dampened worse than if the sub had sprung a leak.
Image credit: Rex Features